New Zealand seafood on U.S. restaurant chain menu
Friday 10 May 2019
US-based Roger Berkowitz sells fish – a lot of it.
And he was in New Zealand this week looking to purchase top seafood for his 32 Legal Sea Foods restaurants across Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
On his first visit to this country he was impressed by the quality and freshness of our seafood, along with the Cloudy Bay wines he imports.
“No one is going to compete with New Zealand – the waters are so pure,” he said.
He is looking to buy orange roughy and squid and is already selling King Salmon’s giant Tyee fish that are grown to 15kg plus.
Of about 15 such fish harvested each month and sold under the premium Ora King Salmon brand to high end restaurants from Tokyo to New York, two go to Legal in Boston.
Berkowitz caught up with King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne to discuss continuing supply and possibly increasing the order.
He has built a seafood empire from humble beginnings.
His grandparents opened a store in 1904 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, its Legal Cash Market name drawn from government-issued redemption stamps.
His father George moved into seafood in the 1940s to compete with newly emerging supermarkets.
He opened a fish’n’chip shop next door, a Jewish family earning much of their livelihood on Fridays and during Lent.
The business got a huge boost in the 1960s with an influx of Asian computer science students into Harvard and MIT.
“I was a kid standing on a crate behind the counter and they would point to the fish they wanted, open up the package and eat it raw.
“Asians had less heart disease, less cancer, longer lives – the health benefits of fish came to be realised.”
Proximity to Boston Pier and fresh seafood was a big advantage and then along came the first of the TV cooking shows, hosted by a local woman named Julia Child, soon to become famous, who used fish in her recipes.
Suddenly, fish, which had not been a popular mainstream dish, was sexy.
The newly available orange roughy got a similar boost a couple of decades later when it featured in a romantic restaurant scene on the soap opera Dallas.
Berkowitz is a stickler for freshness and quality and the business has its own processing and distribution centre and lab testing.
Every tuna and swordfish is tested for mercury content and he notes the minute traces have not altered over a hundred years, despite some alarmist reporting.
He has moved into seafood convenience sales and also produces a seafood chowder sold nationally that is famous for being served at presidential functions from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.
“We are founded on quality of produce and unwillingness to compromise our values,” he says.
It’s incumbent on me to do the right thing.
“We are always sensitive to what’s sustainable.”
The Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification of New Zealand-caught orange roughy and toothfish reassures him.
When those species were being overfished in the 1990s, he stopped serving them.
He believes seafood consumption will only go up, with two sectors particularly concerned about healthy eating – millennials and seniors.
Berkowitz and wife Lynne were guests of honour at a dinner at US Ambassador Scott Brown’s Lower Hutt residence last weekend where Kiwi chef Matt Allison served up seafood chowder with Bluff oysters and baked Mount Cook salmon with rock lobster tortellini.
They were also given a tour of the Ambassador’s extensive rock’n’roll collection – Brown is an accomplished guitarist who has played on stage with Kiss and Cheap Trick.
They rounded out their visit in Queenstown, including dinner at Darren Lovell’s celebrated Fishbone restaurant.
Friday 19 July 2019
Meri Leask has looked out for the Bluff fishing fleet for 40 years.
Friday 12 July 2019
Canada has followed New Zealand’s example of good fisheries management.